Over on CNN's site, punk preacher (and son of Jim and Tammy Faye) Jay Bakker offers a quick smack-down of the Religioius Right and others who mix religion and politcs:
What the hell happened? Where did we go wrong? How was Christianity co-opted by a political party? Why are Christians supporting laws that force others to live by their standards? The answers to these questions are integral to the survival of Christianity.
While the current state of Christianity might seem normal and business-as-usual to some, most see through the judgment and hypocrisy that has permeated the church for so long. People witness this and say to themselves, "Why would I want to be a part of that?" They are turned off by Christians and eventually, to Christianity altogether. We can't even count the number of times someone has given us a weird stare or completely brushed us off when they discover we work for a church.
When I spoke with Bakker a few days ago, he said he doesn't like either party laying claim to the moral high ground. As the bumper sticker on his car reads, "God is not a Republican... Or a Democrat." Perhaps God is a registered independent.
Tonight, the Sundance Channel debuts "One Punk Under God," a documentary series that follows Jay Bakker, the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Since his parents' PTL ministry collapsed in the late '80s, Bakker hit the bottle, got a ton of tattoos, sobered up, rediscovered God, and became a preacher. He's now spreading the word from a Brooklyn storefront, but it's a distinctly different message from the one we're used to hearing from megachurches and televangelists. I recently talked to Bakker about his philosophy, his decision to become a "gay-affirming" church, and what tricks of the trade he picked up from his parents. Check it out here.
On a good Sunday, Jay Bakker’s storefront church in Brooklyn may attract as many as 30 worshippers. That’s alright with Bakker, the founder and pastor of Revolution, a nondenominational congregation that might be described as an anti-megachurch. Intimacy trumps grandeur in this “church for people who have given up on church.” It got its start in an Atlanta bar, luring wayward skaters and punks with a gospel of “ultimate grace,” a come-as-you-are theology that holds that God loves you, combat boots, body art, and all. Bakker, a pierced and heavily tatted 31-year-old, takes a casual yet passionate approach to his role, delivering sermons with titles such as “Nobody Likes a Selfish Bastard,” “Jesus: A Friend to Porn Stars,” and “Galatians Baby!”
Oh boy. I really can't wait for the transcript of this Supreme Court case. The Supes have agreed to hear a First Amendment case involving an Alaska teen who was suspended for unfurling a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." The student says he did it as a prank to try to get on TV, but his principal said he'd violated the school rules by promoting drug use. (I guess promoting religion didn't work in his favor.) An appeals court sided with the kid, declaring that his free-speech rights were violated. But the schoolrepresented by Kenneth Starrhas appealed to the Supreme Court. Serious questions of free expression aside, I think it's safe to say this will be the first time the phrase "bong hits" will be uttered in those hallowed halls (any SCOTUS watchers out there know otherwise?). If ever a Supreme Court hearing deserved its own drinking game, this is it.
In our current issue, Sara Shipley Hiles and Marina Walker Guevara investigate how Doe Run, an American mining company, effectively offshored its pollution when it bought a lead smelter in a small city in the Peruvian Andes. Its operation is coating the town of La Oroya in poisonous dust, with devasting effects on the local environment, public health, and especially its kids, many of whom have unacceptably high levels of lead in their systems. Don't miss the story.
But if you want a quick look at what La Oroya looks like and what local residents are saying about the plant, check out this video from Earthjustice, which is part of the legal effort Doe Run to get to clean up its act.